Scale the Scaffolds on DOB YouTube Channel

East, East Coast
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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The Department of Buildings recently launched a YouTube channel. You’d think the department’s time would be better spent actually inspecting buildings instead of making videos about inspecting buildings, but a) given the black eye the department suffered after the two crane accidents two years ago, and b) this is a pretty damn good video, let’s let our criticizm slide. In fact, this simple black-and-white-photos-and-voiceover film verges on tearjerker. “A lot of the companies out there welcome us and are happy to see us out there performing a safety inspection, and then there’s that percentage that want no part to do with us,” intones inspector Joseph Coben, the Bronx still thick in his voice. Interesting factoids about the three-year-old scaffolding team abound, like how every scaffold gets a walkthrough no matter how dangerous, and how thankful workers are for the inspector getting them off a dangerous site they can’t leave without risking their jobs. Grab some popcorn and a hardhat and enjoy.

Flooding the Unisphere Once Again

East, East Coast
Monday, August 16, 2010
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For the first time in 15 years, the Unisphere, one of the ’64 World’s Fair’s numerous icons, is back on, its fountain at full force thanks to a $2 million renovation funded by the Queens Borough President and the city. Designed by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the fountain is, as Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe puts it, part of the city’s Versailles that is Flushing Meadows. While not quite the Lincoln Center fountain, we’d still sit here any day and enjoy some Belgian waffles, which a press release informs us were served at Thursday’s rechristening, having been a favorite at the Fair.

NYC Snatches Sustainability Czar from PDX

East Coast, National
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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There are few places better for the Bloomberg administration to look for a new head for the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainabilty than Portland, that utopia of urban green living. (To some, it borders on zealotry.) Today the administration announced that David Bragdon, the president of Metro, the City of Roses’ land-use and management body, will be replacing the recently departed Rohit Aggarwala. He has his work cut out for him, as his predecessor was the chief architect of the city’s lauded PlaNYC 2030 plan, though it appears the office is in capable hands. Read More

Brutalism On the Small Screen

East
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
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Quick! Name that Building!

That’s right, it’s time for another round of our favorite game. You can probably name the architect, thanks to the ribbons of his signature corduroy concrete, to say nothing of the cantilevered passageways and swooping staircases. So it’s Paul Rudolph. But which of his masterworks? It’s not a famous one, so you’ll probably never guess. Okay, you got it. It’s the Hurley Building of his Government Service Center in Boston. It’s an impressive star turn for an architect whose buildings haven’t faired so well of late. And yet it’s good to know that when those Madison Avenue Fatcats still need a structure to shoot on that screams hip futurism, Rudolph’s the go-to guy. Dude’s still got it. Read More

Could Low-E Windows Melt Your Neighbors?

National
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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(Courtesy WCVB)

Every rose has its thorn, including those supposed holy grails of sustainable products. CFLs contain mercury. Biofuel competes with farmers for topsoil. Now high performance windows, particularly those of the double-pane, Low-E variety, have become the bane of suburbia, as they can apparently melt your neighbors home—or at least their vinyl siding. That was the news from a surprising report on Boston’s Channel 5 news, sent to us by Infared New England, who tests for these sorts of things. It turns out that under the right circumstances, the windows work as magnifiers, focusing light on nearby buildings like a rascally child picking off ants. At least two area women have suffered the consequences, and there are plenty of similar videos on YouTube. So let this be a warning to you about the risks of vinyl siding next time you consider using it on a project. (Okay, let’s be honest, if you’re reading this, god forbid such a thought ever crossed your mind. Still, it’s pretty crazy, the unintended consequences of this business of ours. Eh, Frank?)

Now Showing: Johansen and Niemeyer

National
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
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We get a lot of Twitter followers every day (not to brag—but are you one of them?) and one particularly caught our eye today for its clever name, @formfollowshome. Turns out to be a simple blog, Form Follows You Home, the kind of no frills operation that would make Mies proud. All the blog is is a nice little catalog of one of our favorite things in the world: architecture videos. We’d seen quite a few of these, but this one of John Johansen taking Connecticut Public TV on a tour of his one-of-a-kind home was a particular standout. We got a tour ourselves, but here is proof for everyone to see that the man is a genius. After the jump, a two-parter with another grandmaster, Oscar Niemeyer, done by so-cruel-its-cool Vice magazine of all places. Read More

Calatrava PATH Station Takes Flight

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 29, 2010
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It’ll be at least 4 years before Santiago Calatrava’s scaled-back, over-budget World Trade Center PATH station is completed (though as our upcoming feature on Lower Manhattan showcases, everything’s been a long time coming, but it seems to have finally arrived). Still, from the start of the interminable process, we’ve had some of the flashiest renderings around to tuck us in at night. Now comes an illustrated video courtesy the Journal‘s Metropolis blog that gives us our clearest view yet of just what’s planned, as well as what Calatrava meant when he told the New Yorker a while back that he was striving for something akin to Grand Central—a truly great room where the interiors, not the exteriors, would be what truly matters. If this video is any indication, despite all the cutbacks, he’s succeeded grandly.

Barnard Takes Diana Center Stage

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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Since last year, esteemed architecture photo agency ESTO has been shooting video as well. Here is the latest effort, a look at the Diana Center at Barnard, narrated by the designers, Weiss/Manfredi. From the first frame, we couldn’t help but think of Curbed’s frequent Rendering vs. Reality feature. From that first frame on, at times it looks like exactly that, like we’re looking at a renderings. Were it not for the cars and buses and students passing by at times, we might actually believe so. We’re still not sure what Weiss/Manfredi was going for here in terms of appearance, but it certainly seems to be working for the firm.

Superfront Hawks a Different Dialectic in Brooklyn

East, East Coast
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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Urban Omnibus has put together another great video, this time on Superfront, a new-ish storefront collaborative space on the further reaches of Atlantic Avenue. (We’re partial to it not only because it’s a cool idea but also one of us is moving around the corner and also happens to have a friend who lives in the back of the space from time to time.) The video is basically an interview with the space’s founder, Mitch McEwan, an ebullient mouthful of architectural contradictions. Our favorite line: “There really aren’t a lot of opportunities to make mistakes in architecture. And this is an opportunity for me to make mistakes in architecture.” Now what’s yours?

SFMOMA Architects: Meet the Public

West
Friday, June 25, 2010
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On Wednesday, SFMOMA held a press preview of its new exhibit, “Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection,” which takes up the top two floors and features whole entire rooms of Calders, Ellsworth Kellys, Chuck Closes, Agnes Martins—a smorgasboard of modern masters, each a few steps from the next. Downstairs in the main lobby, however, there was the opportunity to get to know a different group of artists—the four candidates that are up for the job of designing the SFMOMA’s new extension. Read More

Detroit Plants Seeds for Innercity Entrepeneurs

Midwest
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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Forget school-top farms for privileged Manhattan children. You want something truly radical? How about taking over abandoned lots in Detroit so poor single mothers can make a living growing organic produce. That is in part the focus of Grown in Detroit, a new documentary about how the Motor City, on both the large and small scale, is trying to become the manure city. The film is currently screening at a few locations in town as part of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival. For those of us not in the shrinking city, though, there’s an ingenious option to stream the doc on its website, albeit on a pay-what-you-will basis, which is almost as clever as the idea to turn Detroit into one giant, happy farm.

Mess With the Imagination (Playground) of David Rockwell

East, East Coast
Monday, June 21, 2010
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For the past few years, David Rockwell, that master of stage and scene, has been developing the Imagination Playground, a deployable playground-in-a-box that has been finding its way across the country. Now, he is just finishing a larger playground, sort of a showcase for the concept, at Burling Slip in Lower Manhattan. (As the rendering after the jump shows, it’s quite literally a flagship.) To celebrate the opening of the new playground at the end of July, the Parks Department is taking imagination playgrounds on a pop-up tour, which kicked off this past weekend in Staten Island, with stops in all five boroughs to follow. It truly is a revolutionary concept in recreation, Read More

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